Is It Safe To Fly On A Long Distance Flight?

August 20, 2020

As the world is slowly opening back up to travel and tourism, you can bet there are multiple studies out there to help answer this question — is it safe to head off on a long flight? 

According to a new report, the risk is small and even smaller since so many precautions have been put in place since the outbreak of the pandemic. Back in March, a German research team reported on the health status of 102 passengers who boarded a flight in Tel Aviv, Isreal to make the 4.5 hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany. This was all before more extreme lockdown measures and requirements (like passengers and crew members wearing masks or decreasing crowding in the aisles). The case takes an interesting turn when researchers realize 7 people on that flight had tested Positive for COVID-19 upon landing. And what about the other passengers on the plane, who had been on the flight with the infected passengers? 

"We discovered 2 likely SARS-CoV-2 transmissions on this flight, with 7 index cases," researcher Dr. Sandra Ciesek, of the Institute for Medical Virology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, stated in the report. Only two transmissions occurred with no attempts to prevent the spared of the virus. 

“(E)ven with no attempts to prevent spread, [the] spread was limited to only those in close proximity. Plus, nowadays with a better understanding of viral transmission, and recognizing the importance of masking and social distancing as possible, the likelihood of transmitting COVID-19 to someone on an airplane is very low," says Dr. Aaron Glatt, chief of Infectious Diseases of Mount Sinai in New York. 

The measures airlines are taking are exactly what epidemiologist Glatt reports: social distancing while on a plane (and in the airport) along with wearing a mask is going to decrease the risk of contagion while flying.

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